Jan 12, 2014

A commoner reviews Louie Mueller Barbecue, Taylor, Texas

If you want an authentic Texas barbecue experience, it probably doesn't get much more “old school” than Louie Mueller Barbecue.   

Serving beef brisket, beef ribs, hot links and other smoked meats pit-cooked to perfection since 1949, Louie Mueller Barbecue is clearly the main attraction in downtown Taylor, Texas, which is approximately 30-45 minutes northeast of Austin.  You can’t miss the place.  

Yes, before you even go inside, it’s pretty obvious the place hasn't changed much, and third generation owner Wayne Mueller is probably quite content to keep it that way.  After all, why mess with greatness? 

So, just find a spot in the parking lot to the side of the building, and take a moment to admire the tin roof and open-air screened windows before getting in line outside the front door.  That’s right, even today, Louie Mueller doesn't have air conditioning, which is amazing since both the heat and aroma from barbecuing permeates the place on both the inside and outside. 

But, surprisingly, the Texas wind blowing through the windows and the numerous fans (some of which look as old as the building itself) strategically placed throughout the restaurant keep the place fairly comfortable.

I actually do well with directions.
As fate would have it, my friend Omarr and I went to Louie Mueller right after a scheduled morning business meeting in Taylor, so we got there early enough to walk right in.  Still, I don’t like to miss a good photo opportunity.

Once inside, you also owe it to yourself to look around, take in the ambiance and the history tacked all over the walls.  And don’t forget to add your business card to the collection. 

The first thing to do once in line is to figure out what you’re going to drink.  If you choose tea or lemonade, make sure you stop at the ice machine and fill up your cup.  Then serve yourself off to the right. 

Meat, meat and more meat!
The ordering process for food is easy, and it’s just as no-frills.  Meat is ordered by weight (usually a half-pound is appropriate, or a quarter-pound if you want to sample more of the goods available that day).  It’s Texas, so beef brisket is obviously “king.”  You can ask for it “lean” or “moist.”  Louie Mueller’s describes its lean cut as more dense and closer to steak in consistency.  Their moist cut is the more tender, juicy and fatty portion.  Since I prescribe to the belief that fat equals flavor, I ordered moist. 

The meat is cut and weighed to order butcher-shop style right behind the counter.  You’re close enough to tell the brisket came right out of the pit, and you can still see the juices dripping off the meat.  It’s served right on the parchment paper, brought to your stray straight from the slicer.  Like I said, old school all the way.      

After you order, the line moves cafeteria style toward the cash register.  It moves pretty quickly, and if you’re in line long enough, the servers may just drop an extra scrap of brisket or bite of a link on your tray for sampling. 

The very lovely and friendly cashier who hopefully still thinks I'm Ray Liotta.
In fact, everyone at Louie Mueller was very friendly and accommodating – especially the cashier who for some reason thought I looked like someone famous.  I bet she says that to a lot of out-of-towners.  Still, it’s nice to have your ego boosted occasionally.  Or maybe she thought she should try to figure out who I was since I was going crazy with the camera the whole time I was there. 

(Insert Homer Simpson drooling noise here.)
I chose the sandwich serving of brisket for lunch (as you can see, the brisket sandwich is served about as open-faced as you can get, with bread on the side) along with a chipotle beef sausage link and a serving of cole slaw.  The sauce was more of an au jus designed for dipping.  It served its purpose, but I’m more accustomed to a thicker and tangier sauce. 

The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  The pepper crust along the outside seals in the juices and the smokiness that makes the meat fall-apart tender.  I did find the “moist” cut a little fatty and would prefer to try the lean cut if I ever come back.  Still, it was impressively good.

The pleasant surprise of lunch was the chipotle sausage link.  It was very spicy, wonderfully smoky, and the natural casing snapped with every bite.  The casing also seals in all the juices, so every bite literally gushes with flavor.  And judging by all the reviews I've seen online, I’m not alone in praising Louie Mueller for its sausage links, all of which are made in-house. 

It’s hard to imagine a more “real” Texas barbecue experience than Louie Mueller’s.  I have to thank Omarr again for recommending we stop here. If you love Texas-style barbecue, and beef barbecue in particular, this place helps set the bar.  And he bar here is very high.  But I’m fairly certain those who prefer Texas barbecue over other styles are probably already aware of this. 

If you're visiting the Austin area, it's definitely worth the drive.  But remember, they're only open for lunch, and only until they run out of what they prepared for the day, so get there early. 

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